Zinka Milanov In Recital.
Zinka Milanov (soprano). rec.
Zinka Milanov In Recital
1. Caro mio ben [2:54]
2. Widmung [2:17]
3. Mondnacht [4:18]
4. Am Sonntag Morgen [1:33]
5. Wiegenlied [2:13]
6. Zueignung [2:00]
7. Freundliche Vision [2:51]
8. Allerseelen [3:40]
9. Caecilie [1:56]
10. She Dus Dan (All Souls'
11. Pastirica (The Shepherdess)
12. Ceznja (Longing) [3:19]
13. Strepnja (Quivering) [2:50]
14. The World is Empty [1:44]
15. Do Not Go My Love [3:29]
Songs of Yugoslavia (Croatia),
arranged by Dr. Lujo Goranin
16. Na Bembasi (By Bembasi
17. Gor cez jezero (By the
18. Ko lani sem (When last
year I passed by) [3:10]
19. Ukor (Maiden's reproach)
20. Daleko m'e moj Split (Split,
my hometown, so far away) [3:12]
21. Domovini i ljubavi (To
my homeland an to my love) [2:59]
Zinka Milanov (soprano)
Bozidar Kunc (piano) (1-15); anon.
piano and violin (16-21)
rec. 1955 (1-15); 1943 (16-21)
NIMBUS PRIMA VOCE NI 7948 [61:42]
She was born in Zagreb,
Croatia in 1906 as Zinka Kunc, and
a quick look at the header might lead
readers to believe that there was
some kind of family relation between
her and her pianist. And indeed there
was: Bozidar Kunc was her elder brother.
After her professional debut in Ljubljana
in 1927 she sang for ten years at
the Zagreb Opera and as a guest in
Central Europe. Then everything changed.
Edward Johnson, the Met Manager, heard
her in the summer and on 17 December
she made her debut in New York, singing
Leonora in Il trovatore, as
she had done at her 'real' debut.
From then on she was one of the mainstays
in the house for almost thirty years,
excelling not least in the lirico
spinto Verdian roles, in Andrea
Chenier and as Tosca. She took
part in a number of successful complete
opera recordings and some months ago
I reviewed another Nimbus disc with
arias and scenes from Verdi operas,
recorded in the mid-fifties: the same
period in which the greater part of
this recital was set down.
Hers was a rather
large but not enormous voice, with
ringing fortissimo. Her real forte
was her ravishing pianissimo, her
ability to spin a thin ethereal tone
up high and float it with exceptional
breath control. By the nineteen-fifties
her voice quality had changed and
she started to sound rather elderly.
I have commented on this before and
it has really nothing - or at least
very little - to do with deterioration
of the vocal resources but is signified
by a change of timbre. In singing
opera, backed by an orchestra, a slight
widening of the vibrato is often blissfully
masked. However with just piano accompaniment
she is more exposed and the impression
of someone who is approaching the
’sell by’ date is very near.
I know we react differently
to voices and there is no doubt that
she offers a lot of sensitive phrasing
and good insight, but there is also
a vibrato that in the next stage would
be called a ‘beat’ and further on
a ‘wobble’. The tone also tends to
be shrill when under pressure.
There is still a
lot to admire here. Schumann’s Mondnacht
is lovely, and so is Brahms’s Wiegenlied,
though possibly with too much portamento.
She has deep understanding of Richard
Strauss’s idiom, where especially
Allerseelen is splendid.
In the songs by her
fellow countrymen, including three
by her brother, it is a further attraction
to hear her singing in her mother-tongue.
Bersa’s She Dus Dan is sung
from the beginning with hushed intensity
which is then allowed to grow. And
all through this 1955 recital (tr.
1-15) there are many touches of an
inspired lieder singer. Still one
has the feeling that this is an agèd
singer struggling hard to bring out
the message of the songs.
Going back twelve
years in time to the six Yugoslavian
folksongs we find her in her real
prime. She was already 37 and a mature
singer but the voice is youthful,
sappy and beautiful. She doesn’t have
to labour the phrases and her golden
tone just pours out effortlessly and
naturally. Her voice also blends beautifully
with the accompanying violin. And
Good Heavens how she caresses the
music with well judged rubato and
that ethereal pianissimo. This is
vocal art of the highest order! Moreover
the songs are little gems, several
of them with a Gypsy or Viennese stamp.
Listen to the syncopated Daleko
m’e moj Split. It is hard to imagine
more superb singing.
These six songs were
issued some years ago as fillers to
Naxos’s Il trovatore with Milanov
and Björling, though in a slightly
different order, but here they are
in the recorded order. The transfers
are good and the 1955 sound in particular
is excellent. Alan Bilgora’s liner-notes
are identical with the ones for her
Verdi recital with some added lines
about the actual programme here.
Apart from the folksongs
(tr. 16-21) I hadn’t encountered Zinka
Milanov as a recitalist before and
while I admire her obvious involvement
and her lovely soft singing, there
is too much compromising of vocal
quality for a wholehearted recommendation.
Generally speaking I would advise
readers to buy the Verdi recital and
then the budget-priced Naxos Trovatore
to get one of the best recorded versions
of that opera into the bargain. For
diehard Milanov fans the present disc
is of course essential.